back to article Baywatch hero drone saves silly struggling swimmers Down Under from going down under

Australian politicians are claiming a world first after a drone saved two teenagers from drowning in heavy surf. At 11.30am on Thursday, passersby alerted lifeguards that two people were in trouble in the sea off Lennox Head beach in New South Wales. The lifesavers just so happened to be in the middle of a training course on …

  1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    No doubt it also saves on helicopter fuel, wear and tear etc, and allow the big whirly to be used elsewhere.


    One for whoever thought this out and implemented it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      All sounds very good

      I can't see that there will ever be a problem with a bunch of nerds flying drones with cameras over a beach full of scantily clad lovelies.

      What's not to like :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: All sounds very good

        "I can't see that there will ever be a problem with a bunch of nerds flying drones with cameras over a beach full of scantily clad lovelies."

        How exactly is it different to a camera equipped manned helicopter? Or the shore based lifeguards?

        Leering at attractive bathers is a perk of the lifeguard's job (well, when they can spare an eye to do the leering), and I'm OK with that. Not that anybody would be leering at me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: All sounds very good

          Perhaps I should have used the joke icon to make my nerds comment clearer.

          If you're going to take it more literally then I'd say that, in most beaches I've been on, the helicopter only flies when there's a call out and tends not to go out over the beach. The lifeguards themselves tend to follow the waters edge looking out to sea and not sit on the beach where people are sunbathing.

          With a drone there's always the temptation to fly it more constantly so it can be quick to respond and the cost of doing so is likely to be quite small. Which then means that our nerds could point the camera and zoom in on whatever peaks their attention, someone with the latest iPhone, the rare site of someone still using a Windows smart phone etc.....

        2. Anonymous Coward

          Re: All sounds very good

          Not that anybody would be leering at me.

          Oh, don't be so modest!

        3. Andrew Alan McKenzie

          Re: All sounds very good

          A camera equipped helicopter is never going to be there when you want it is it? Receive report of distress. Phone airport. Pilot taps out his pipe, gets out of deck chair, pulls on cool leather jacket and mae west lifejacket, straps in, lights the fire, fiddles with the controls a bit, nods nonchalantly, calls up air traffic control, takes off, flies 10 minutes, takes photo of fat contented shark. Heads back to base and writes out a multi thousand pound invoice

          Meanwhile in Baywatch hut, lifeguard shakes out their untamed blonde tresses, arms the drone and taps on a tablet to tell it to take off and fly to the point where trouble is reported, spots swimmer, drops flotation device. Drone returns to base. Lifeguard plugs drone into mins to recharge pence worth of electricity.

        4. N000dles

          Re: All sounds very good

          Just like the old F-111 crews used to turn off their military grade reconnaissance camera when they used to fly down the beaches......

        5. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

          Re: All sounds very good

          "Not that anybody would be leering at me."

          Oh, I don't know. People have weird fetishes.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Considering they were training that was a cracking shot with the flotation device.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Walks like a duck?


      I thought the same thing when I watched the vid yesterday elsewhere... But then read that they were to demo it later in the day? I wonder if this was just part of the demo? A little advance publicity?


      1. Matthew Brasier

        Re: Walks like a duck?

        Its unlikely to be part of a demo - those swimmers are in some pretty rough water. It would be pretty silly for lifeguards to put swimmers (even well trained ones) in actual danger to demonstrate a new toy.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Gravity usually works pretty well vertically from modest heights, making it a lot easier.

      Obviously if they want to avoid over-flying people and need to use toss-bombing techniques, or if they're releasing from 20,000 feet to avoid AAM, or want to do over the horizon or beyond visual range delivery, then they'll need to build up their accuracy skills.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You're kidding... they didn't manage to hit either of them!

      (Also, joking aside, I'm going to assume that the flotation device was more substantial in reality than the "fun pool novelty inflatable" it looked like in the video!)

    4. DeVino
      Thumb Up

      On-Hundred and Eightyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy !

      I would think for the money they would get a bunch of same weight and size dummy packs and a big target printed on some cardboard.

      You could have a fun afternoon practicing bombing runs to music from Dambusters or 633 Squadron.

      Maybe a new sport here ? Then again perhaps not.

      Interesting about the pack though. It did not drift in the wind much as it fell.

      Maybe they got lucky with the wind speed.

      You need the pack to be pretty heavy to avoid drifting as it dropped

      but not so much as to hit and render unconcious the bod you are trying to rescue.

      Maybe that's why they keep the big chopper ready ?

  3. Alan J. Wylie

    NZ Water safety campaign

    Perhaps the Aussies could take a few tips from New Zealand?

    The Swim Reaper

    Instagram photos

  4. Qwertius

    Next time --- I suggest the drone dump some shark bait on them.

    That will help save time & effort in dealing with such idiots.

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      It's very easy to very quickly get into trouble unexpectedly. It's a natural environment with many variables that even experienced swimmers and surfers can 'come a cropper' in. Not to mention that these are kids and kids make mistakes.

      Let's hope you never get in to trouble in the sea and they've decided to wind up the coastguard because they shouldn't be taking the time and trouble to help 'idiots' as how can they tell who they are? That's like A&E closing because they get swamped with drunks. I'm sure most people who end up needing emergency assistance in the sea don't intend to need it whereas idiot drunks who drink to excess could easily prevent that happening. I know what I'd rather fund.

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Shark bait....

        What Martin said.

        It's very easy to misjudge the ocean. I've been caught in a rip when swimming off NZ, and while I was within a couple of hundred metres of the shore I could have quite easily done myself in if I'd not been aware of what to do. Without obvious landmarks you can be swept quite a long way without realising just how far you've gone.

        Much like being in a skidding car, to start with you want to avoid getting in the situation. When you are in it, stay calm as panicing probably cause you to make the instinctive (and wrong) decision. You steer into a skid to gain control, you swim laterally across a rip (or float and wait it out). Going against the motion will make things worse.

        So in my case the rip was going out to sea, so I swam roughly parallel to the shore until I could angle back in. I was in the water for less than an hour, and had about half an hour walk back along the beach but I felt like I'd run a marathon. Some of which was swimming, but the panic wears you out.

        Another time I've had to restrain a kid from going to try and rescue their dog (river rather than sea), which is another common mistake. Pet or child gets into trouble, adult dives in to help, adult also gets in trouble, rescue services manage to save child+pet while the adult drowns.

        The dog was OK in the end, after going through some rapids.

      2. Bangem

        @MartinSummers completely agree. I have personally been caught in the old washing machine spin cycle with a board tethered to my leg (making the whole situation much worse) on more than one occasion.

        When you've had time to contemplate your own stupidity whilst being tossed around like a rag doll, wondering if your head is going to smash against some rocks, without the help of life guards at hand, you begin to realise the amazing work those guys n gals do. This drone is amazing stuff.

        Up with this sort of thing!

        *by the way, thats an amazing bit of coastline!

    2. Tikimon Silver badge

      ANY water can kill you if the cards fall wrong

      I paddle a sea kayak, but mostly on inland flatwater and non-foaming rivers. I don't do whitewater or play in the surf. And yet, I have helped rescue about ten humans and one dog. Only one or two were for-sure lifesavers, but they were all facing hypothermia, possible drowning and/or being swept out to sea. Not one them got in trouble from being an idiot.

      Well... okay, the DOG was kind of an idiot, romping out on a sandbar as the tide came in. He was cut off 100 meters from shore and the tide running out, too old to swim strongly. Plenty of stupid folks on the water, but the ones I've helped got caught by the unexpected. Except the dog.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it time...

    Is it time to recall the Hoff for a Night Rider / Baywatch mash up now?

    Pity we can't call it "NightWatch"...

  6. Winkypop Silver badge


    It could have dropped a few cold ones as well.

    Oh, and maybe some peanuts.*

    They would be welcome during the leisurely drift into shore.

    * Not chips, they'd get wet. Let's not be silly about things.

  7. DuncanLarge Bronze badge

    Just say no ;)

    Wonderful tech and lifeguards have my respect and admiration but I do wonder why the hell any sane person would even swim in the sea?

    Sure neing able to swim towards shore when a boat capsises ect is a good skill that everyone should be encouraged to pick up but just going in to swim FROM the shore? I never understood that. The sea is way too dangerous and deadly to do anything more that paddle at the shoreline. Since I was a nipper I have allways thought anyone going for a swim in anything other than a swimming pool basically must have a death wish!

    If humans had kept a decent ability to swim (perhaps gills even) after we evolved away from the oceans I would have a different view I would imagine.

    Swimming in the sea is unecesary and borders on being irresponsible. Build sand castles, sun bathe, wade out a little way, but not too far. Mind the jellyfish!

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Just say no ;)

      I think you forgot the Troll icon.

      FYI 3/4 of the world's mega cities are coastal.

      I'm a sea kayaker, I know the coast and currents where I paddle, if I go anywhere new I ask locals. I'm also English, the sea is part of my heritage, if you are not trolling then you are wet even without going into the sea.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I do wonder why the hell any sane person would even swim in the sea?"

    I love swimming in the sea, and it's not that hard to pay attention to where the safe areas on beaches are. There are even a lot of beaches in the UK where swimming is pretty safe.

    Then again, I always thought I was a bit odd...

  9. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge


    The Baie des Trepasses in Brittany is a good place for a swim. The tide always seems to push you towards the beach. It's named for the bodies that washed up after shipwrecks in the area.

    I've scuba dived with a wild dolphin that used to regularly visit the bay. Good lobster to be had!

    I deliberately made a Bing link, now you guys can say that you've seen one :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: @Duncanlarge

      Wow, another first!

  10. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

    That's a bloody good use of technology and some serendipitous timing.

  11. caffeine addict Silver badge

    That thing ppl think is OCD but isn't.

    Does it bug anyone else that the drone isn't painted the same as the chopper they obviously want it compared to in that pic?

    Anyone want to buy me some Humbrol and a first class ticket to Aus?

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: That thing ppl think is OCD but isn't.

      Not OCD, just anal.

  12. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Little Ripper

    Of course the Oz government bought it with a name like that.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Little Ripper

      I should imagine the Aussie government are pretty keen on the coast guard these days, since they managed to carelessly lose a prime minister in the sea back in the 60's.

  13. John Robson Silver badge

    Pretty accurate drop...

    And a good inflation upon impact with the water. Looked pretty decent to me, and an excellent use of the technology. Have one sat on the roof of the lifeguard hut, fuelled/charged and ready to roll pretty fast.

  14. Comedy of Errors

    Need to teach the kids how to hang onto a float

    One of them eventually gets the idea to drape himself over the float, but the other just tries to hold it with one hand, never seeming to learn even when separated from it by each passing wave.

    1. Rob D.

      Re: Need to teach the kids how to hang onto a float

      Possibly although it looked more like that person was still comfortable and the partner was in considerably more difficulty.

      The one in black was full body suit or similar not swim trunks, was head up looking at the drone when it arrived while still looking to partner, was treading water properly not fighting the current, struck out more strongly for the shore when the float was out, prepped a lot better for the big waves and came out from under with a strong swim to regain the float, pushed the float forward to surf the second wave, etc. Plus if their partner was panicking or near panic, then they probably are more comfortable with the space between them to begin with.

      Either way, neat test for some neat kit.

  15. Ugotta B. Kiddingme


    Was there audio in the original video? If not, how could the pilot see that the swimmers were actually in distress and required assistance? It doesn't seem immediately apparent to me that they are in distress. It's pretty obvious they are POTENTIALLY in danger but less obvious to my untrained eye that the danger is real and/or imminent.

    Either way, MANY props and pints to all involved. That's a fine example of using technology to improve the efficiency and efficacy of an important job.

    1. tcam

      Re: audio?

      I don't know - having grown up around beaches and seen distressed swimmers being rescued, the one kid who couldn't keep hold of the flotation device looked pretty obviously in distress, at least from that distance.

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